California LEAs Awarded $1.4 Million. Wait. What’s an LEA?
During its monthly public meeting this week, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery awarded $1,404,000 to its local enforcement agencies throughout California. These LEAs provide a crucial service to protect California’s environment and the health and safety of the people who live here.
But what exactly is an LEA?
California is home to nearly 1,000 active and closed solid waste facilities, including landfills, transfer stations, material recovery facilities, and compost operations. In addition to administering and providing oversight for California’s solid waste management and recycling programs, it’s CalRecycle’s job to make sure these facilities and operations meet state standards for environmental protection and public health and safety. While CalRecycle maintains its own robust enforcement and inspections staff, statute gives the department the authority to certify local enforcement agencies to act on the state’s behalf to enforce compliance with the Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939, Sher, Chapter 1095, Statutes of 1989) and regulations related to solid waste handling and disposal.
A local governing body (such as a board of supervisors or city council) designates an LEA, most often an environmental health department, which CalRecycle then certifies. Right now, there are 60 certified LEAs in the state. CalRecycle acts as the enforcement agency in six jurisdictions where no LEA is designated: San Benito, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Stanislaus counties, as well as the cities of Berkeley and Stockton.
Core functions include ensuring that solid waste facilities and operations meet state standards, responding to public concerns about facilities and operations, and working to correct problems as quickly as possible.
LEAs are among the first to engage whenever an operator seeks to establish a new facility or change activities at an existing site. Operators will work with local planning departments to complete environmental reviews as required by the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970 and work directly with LEAs to complete and submit a solid waste facility permit application package. After checking the materials for completeness and correctness, in consultation with CalRecycle, the LEA submits the package, and its recommendation, to the department. CalRecycle then has 60 days to concur or object to the LEA’s recommendation. Solid waste facility permits cannot be issued or changed without CalRecycle concurrence.
LEAs are also responsible for performing routine inspections of every active, inactive, closing and closed solid waste facility and operation in their jurisdiction. The LEA submits all inspection reports to CalRecycle and carries out enforcement actions when necessary. These reports and actions, whether conducted by LEAs or CalRecycle acting in that capacity, are public records and available for view online. In addition, LEAs ensure that landfill operators submit closure and postclosure maintenance plans for review and assist with enforcement and cleanup of illegal sites.
CalRecycle maintains regular contact and works in close partnership with the LEAs, providing technical guidance and training opportunities to ensure LEAs conduct permitting, inspection, and enforcement activities consistent with California’s waste management laws. The department periodically evaluates LEA performance to ensure they are properly carrying out their responsibilities. Funding schemes for LEAs vary by jurisdiction but can include permitting fees, inspection fees, local general funds, and state grants.